Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on International Tribunals

Dec 5, 2012

(Security Council: Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig in a meeting on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

"Mr. President,

I would like to start by re-iterating Germany’s full support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Their contribution to the fight against impunity for serious international crimes is invaluable. We thank Presidents Meron and Joensen as well as the ICTY and ICTR Prosecutors for their recent assessments. We commend their efforts undertaken to implement the respective completion strategies for both tribunals. And let me add that we welcome the progress made in ensuring a smooth transition to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). We are fully aware of the manifold challenges faced by both Tribunals during this transitional period.

Turning to the ICTR: the report of 5 November clearly outlines successes and remaining challenges. We congratulate the ICTR for having concluded virtually all of its remaining work at trial level, with only one case remaining at the trial level, and all appeals projected to be completed by the end of 2014.

We once again commend Rwanda for having strengthened its national legal system so as to allow the adjudication of cases transferred from the ICTR. We are also grateful to the Governments of both Benin and Mali who have recently enabled the transfer of convicted persons to their respective territory for the serving of remaining sentences. And we re-iterate our call to the International Community and in particular to concerned states in the region to undertake serious efforts in order to bring the remaining nine fugitives to justice. Likewise, we encourage further efforts to solve the issue of the five aquitted persons who currently remain in Arusha under the protection of the ICTR.

Mr. President,

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has played a key role in strengthening the rule of law and promoting long-term stability and reconciliation in the Balkans. Moreover, it embodies a unique success story. With the arrests of the last three fugitives – Mladic, Hadzic and Karadzic – the ICTY has implemented its mandate to fight impunity and not to let the perpetrators of outrageous crimes escape justice.

The jurisprudence of the ICTY, and of the ICTR, is source of inspiration for all national and international jurisdictions that will have to address such crimes. Their record shows: International criminal justice does exist, it prevails and, sooner or later, those responsible for serious international crimes will be held accountable. 

And let me be clear: We owe the tribunals full respect – respect for both their status as independent criminal courts and for their judgments. Both tribunals consistently uphold high standards of justice as well as all principles relating to the right of a fair trial, including the right of appeal. While we recognize that some recent judgments of the ICTY have been met with strong emotions, we call upon all to deal with such emotions in a responsible manner.

Furthermore, statements questioning the impartiality of the ICTY only serve to undermine the mandate and authority of the tribunal and are detrimental to the process of reconciliation in the region. This cannot be tolerated. Germany is committed to continue its full support for the Tribunal and calls upon all states to cooperate with the Tribunal to the fullest extent. 

As the ICTY nears the completion of its mandate, the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia must intensify their efforts to carry on the ICTY’s work of prosecuting crimes. This includes cooperation both with the ICTY as well as between these three states. We are aware of the prosecutor’s continued concerns in this regard, and we are alarmed by the announcement made yesterday by Serbia in a letter to the Secretary-General to reduce its cooperation with the ICTY to the technical level despite the commitment expressed by the new Serbian government in its recent meetings with the prosecutor.

Mr. President,

As Germany is nearing the end of its term as a non-permanent member of the Council, I would like to assure both the Council as well as the principals of both Tribunals of our ongoing and full support for their work in the future.

I thank you."

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